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May 13, 1988 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-05-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, MAY 13, 1988

Christian cast to it.
Finally, Bennett's status within the
Jewish community is complicated by the
groups that comprise the bedrock of his
political support. lb many in the Christian
Right, Bennett is a kind of hero. He has
brought many of them into the department
at various levels.
Sometimes this has caused him prob-
lems — as in the furor last year over a
panel evaluating a Holocaust curriculum
program. One member of the panel com-
plained loudly that the program, the only
one of its kind, was "anti-Christian."
Another suggested that "the Nazi point of
view, however unpopular, is still a point of
view, and is not presented."
Kristol defends Bennett against this
kind of guilt-by-association argument.
"First, you can't choose everyone who ad-
mires you. People admire you for all sorts
of reasons. In the real world of politics, you
will have allies who don't agree with you
about everything. Jews know this as well as
anyone.
"Frankly, Jews have been a little harsh;
these are people Jewish groups can
disagree with without thinking they're
terrible people. I think we saw this with the
Bork nomination. A lot of the groups that
worked to defeat him, I think, are a little
embarrassed now."
Kristol also suggests that Jewish groups
have allowed the issue of school prayer to
take on disproportionate importance in the
debate over changes in the American
education system.
"Obviously, we support the Reagan ad-
ministration favoring voluntary school
prayer," says Kristol, the consummate
team player. "Reasonable people can differ
about whether this would be a sensible
Constitutional amendment or not; I don't
think it's fair to say that the 80 percent of
the American people who support the
amendment are all anti-Semitic, or insen-
sitive to minority religions. Nor is it fair
to say that New York wasn't a place where
Jews could live and feel comfortable prior
to 1962, when they still had these prayers.
There are a spectrum of people behind
school prayer, but the issue has become
identified with the most extreme part of
that spectrum."
Although he doesn't come right out and
say it, Kristol strongly implies that the
Jewish community is too touchy about the
range of moral issues that are a big part
of the educational reform movement, and
about the ultimate intentions of some key
players in that movement.
"Jews have an obligation to look careful-
ly and freshly at these issues," he says. "In
the Jewish community, as in many others,
there is a certain amount of fighting the
battles of 20 years ago.'"
Bill Kristol's background as a scholar is
evident throughout his conversation. His
rapid-fire delivery gives the impression of
a person dealing with an uncontrollable

flow of ideas. Still, he is clearly a man who
chooses his words with care. Although his
job is not overtly political, he never forgets
that he and his boss are at the center of
a political tempest; ill-chosen words by
either can make the front page of the New
York Times the next day.
More importantly, Kristol has a way of
constantly elevating the discussion to the
abstract. Even personal questions about
whether his conservatism clashes with his
Judaism quickly move to the lofty regions
of scholarly debate.
Despite this tendency, he doesn't seem

Dr. William Kristol
will speak
at Temple Beth El
in Birmingham
at 8 p.m. Monday,
co-sponsored
by the
American Jewish Committee,
Young Adult Division
of the
Jewish Welfare Federation
and Temple Beth El.

evasive. Instead, he gives the impression
that he is just talking in his native
language—the language of the academy,
not the political trenches.
His conservatism is deeply ingrained.
When his classmates at Harvard were
demonstrating against the war in Viet
Nam, he was working for Scoop Jackson
— because President Nixon was too soft on
the Soviet Union.
"As I've gotten older and had kids," he
says, "I think I have become more conser-
vative, and more Jewish. I see the two go-
ing hand in hand; I don't see a whole lot
of issues where the two collide. I won't
deny that there are tensions occasionally.
What's easiest for me as a Jew and what's
best for America are not always in sync; one
hopes that most of the time they'll coincide.
"I would have no great problem if my
daughter were asked to say or was given
the opportunity to say — a non-sectarian
prayer, or even if her class was singing
Christmas carols, and she had to make a
decision about whether to sing them or sit
quietly.
"Life is full of tradeoffs — and there is this
tradeoff at some point of whether one
allows the majority to pass on its tradi-
tions and engage them publicly, and how
much, and how much of this comes at the
expense of others. I don't deny that there's
some tension in issues like school prayer.
But I don't regard it as a very great ten-
sion. I did it when I was a kid, and I don't
think it ruined me." ❑



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